Project 1/30

The first exercise from People Pictures by Chris Orwig is pretty simple. His purpose was to strip away the excess of photography–gear and settings–and go “back to basics”. The exercise was called Pictures in 10 Minutes and there were 5 steps. The following is a paraphrase/summary of them:

  1. Choose a normal or slightly telephoto lens. Choose the f-stop with a shallow DOF like f/2.8 (the lowest my Nikon kit lens can go is 4.8, but my momma’s getting me a 50mm f/1.4 lens soon!) Turn off automatic focus, so that you will have to manually focus the frame.
  2. Select a subject who is an acquaintance, family member, or friend. Choose someone who you think leads a quality life. Ask them if they are willing to participate in a 15 minute portrait shoot.
  3. Choose a location; consider a place where he/she works or lives. Or choose an inviting outdoor location.
  4. Arrive at the location a little early to pick a perfect spot. Be warm and friendly to your subject, express gratitude that he/she is giving you his/her time. Explain to your subject that your goal isn’t to create a stylized photo but to capture something real. Encourage you subject to relax. Keep the shoot simple and natural. Use manual focus, and take things slow. Take 10 photos.
  5. After the shoot, select your favorite photo and create a print of it (I didn’t do that) and ask for feedback from your friends.

On the side of ever exercise, there is a little box labeled “Learning Objectives,” which is kind of cool. There are also Tips and at the bottom there is a little list of “Exercise Details” which basically simplifies those steps so they’re easy to remember on the shoot.

– – – – –

I chose my sister as the subject for this exercise. I was home for Thanksgiving break (I live away at college) and I think it would be nice to take a few honest and simple photos of her. She’s a beautiful girl. She loves to “cute”-pose, so we had to sort of work our way down to relaxing her body to look simple and unmasked. Therefore, I took a little more photos than 10.  It was a nice, bright day, so this setting worked great. I really enjoyed this shoot, it was short and simple. When I first started shooting, I would take like 34274356927865 photos and take FOREVER to finish. I’ve slowly worked my way down to about 100-300 photos a pop, which in my opinion is ideal. I think that this simple shoot really piqued my interest, and I think I may do more of them in the future! Tell me what you think of this portrait of my sister, I believed it was the best one. (I upped the exposure jussst a tad.)

(I have a non-glamorous Nikon D40 with the kit lens it came with. I’m still trying to figure out white balance, so it took me a minute to find the right setting. If you have any tips, or a good link that can help me understand how white balance works, that would be glorious! I’ll make sure to include you in an “Teaching Myself by Teaching You” post.)


30 Projects.

Yesterday, I was sitting in B&N for what felt like hours digging through digital photography books, trying to absorb as much information about manual settings, f-stops and the like as I could. I even got in a cool conversation with another guy who needed some help with macro shooting (and I actually helped him!). When I spend time at B&N, I usually pick up 5 or more books on the same subject so I can compare and contrast their awesomeness. And this book won. People Pictures: 30 Exercises for Creating Authentic Photographs by Chris Orwig. This book contrasted greatly from the other textbook-like books I had in my pile. Instead of the usual objective approach, Chris uses one that is meant to touch the heart, to humble us as photographers, and to help us use our photography to enrich our souls and the souls of others.

This book is, as you may have realized by the title, a book of exercises that are meant to help photographers take great “people pictures”. Chris Orwig’s main focus is honesty, creating photos that capture the truth about a person. He writes this book in a humble and realistic style, far from that of your usual photography instruction books. I have the impression that he wants his readers to not only grow as photographers, but as people, and I really appreciate that.

There are five main sections of the book:

  • ”            Section I – The Foundation begins with discussing the thoughs, ideas, and concepts that develop the groundwork and set the stage of your photography practice.
  •             Section II- Tell as Story focuses on how we can create pictures that have substance and are filled with a narrative arc.
  •             Section III- Connect explores the importance of makin ga personal connection with the subject of your frame.
  •             Section IV- Practice Makes Perfect is where you will put your shoulders to the grindstone to hone your skills and try out a variety of formats and techniques.
  •             Section V – Making it Your Own provides you with an opportunity to develop your photographic voice by working on more challenging and rewarding projects. “

I’m excited about starting this book, I do the first exercise, Three Chords and The Truth, today with my sister. It’s a pretty simple exercise that is meant to go back to basics and use as little gear as possible. He puts a lot of emphasis on simplicity, which is probably another reason I’m really excited about this book–the other photography books were overwhelming.

So, I am going to try to blog about every exercise I finish as I go. Keep me accountable! I’ll let you know how the first exercise went soon!

Teaching Myself By Teaching You Part III: Simple ISO

It’s pretty simple, ISO. If you’ve ever used film, you probably already know what it is, but to the digital crowd, its definition may be a little hazy. For me, all I knew was: Low ISO=clear photo , High ISO=grainy photo.

So let’s look a bit deeper into what ISO really is.

For a DSLR, the ISO represents the light sensitivity of the image sensor. “In terms of film, ISO is used as a rating system to tell you how sensitive the film is to light, or how fast the film is.  The lower the ISO number the more time the film needs to be exposed.  The faster the ISO film speed, less light is required to take a picture.” (here.) 

Digital cameras generally measure ISO in doubling increments (from low to high: iso200, iso400, iso800, iso1600) where a low ISO will provide a clearer photo, and a higher ISO will provide a “noisy” or grainy photo. Why would you want a grainy photo? Well, in certain cases, lighting is too low to capture a clear photo, so a higher ISO is necessary.

For example, I went to my city’s “Occupy WallStreet” general assembly a month and a half ago in order to take a few shots. The meeting took a few hours, and by the time it was over, the sun was long gone. Taking photos in a setting where the lighting is quickly diminishing, such as dusk, forces me to alter ISO in order to still be able to capture decent photos (I didn’t have my Speedlight on me).

This photo was taken using ISO400, it was kind of an overcast, dusky time of day.

But as the light diminished, I had to hike my ISO up to 800, then to 1600. Below is what an ISO1600 photo looks like:

Yay grainy! From my experience, ISO helps you to capture movement a little clearer in dim light. This crowd obviously could not stay still and the light was almost gone, so ISO1600 really was the only option. Good news is, there are programs out there that are especially made to get rid of that annoying “noise.” I just do not own anything like it. Honestly, the only thing I’ve ever done in order to make my grainy photos look a little clearer is upping the contrast and maybe using a sharpening mask.

If you find any cool, (even affordable!), programs that can help with the loud noise, let me know!

So What is ISO?

“ISO is a standard telling you how sensitive your film/digital sensor is to light.

  • Higher the ISO, the more sensitive the film/sensor is to light.
  • ISO speed affects allowed aperture and shutter speed combinations.
  • Higher the ISO, the more grainy or noisy pictures may appear.”

Yeah, sometimes I steal stuff from other sites. I can’t explain everything! 🙂

Teaching Myself by Teaching You Part II: Basic Aperture


First, DFS tells me that aperture is the ‘size of the opening in the lens when the picture is taken.’

Got it. Looks like this:

What a beaut.

Anyway, aperture is measured in f-stops, and moving from one f-stop to another either halves or doubles the size of the amount of opening in your lens. One thing all the sites I checked emphasized is the concept that: the higher the f-stop, the smaller the aperture—the smaller the f-stop, the higher the aperture.

So remember that, they said it’s important.

(I also learned that manual focus lenses are where it’s at.)

Moving on. I’ve also learned that aperture has everything to do with depth of field (DOF) and depth of field has everything to do with aperture.With a smaller aperture opening, there will be a greater DOF (the background of the image will be sharp). With a larger aperture opening, there will be a smaller DOF, (background of the image will be blurry). This is important to know.

Here’s a cool chart I see all over the internet:

“As you can see in this diagram the F-stop f/16 has has a very small aperture opening (so by using this f-stop you will let in less light, so your image will be darker but there will be more depth of field, so your background will be sharper).

The F-stop f/1.4 has a very large aperture opening ( so by using this f-stop you will let in more light, so your image will be lighter but there will be less depth of field, so your background will not be very sharp).” taken from here.

Below are the aperture/shutter speed equivalents. Now I have to memorize them and junk. (I’m so sorry I’m sounding so unintelligent right now, my sources are kind of choppy…and it’s 1 AM.)

Aperture value(s): f/64, f/32, f/22, f/16, f/11, f/8.0, f/5.6, f/4.0, f/2.8, f/2.0, f/1.8/f1.4 etc. (WE ARE HERE) Control via the lens section
Shutter speed(s): 1/8000, 1/4000, 1/2000, 1/1000, 1/500, 1/250, 1/125, 1/60, 1/30, 1/15, 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, 1 sec, etc. Control via the Camera section

Enjoy! And thanks for reading. What did you think…helpful? Not? What else is important to know about aperture?

Teaching Myself by Teaching You Part I: Basic Shutter Speed

Way back when, shutter speed represented the length of time that film was exposed to light. Nowadays, it represents the amount of time a camera shutter stays open to expose itself to the image. It’s usually measured in fractions of seconds—the larger the denominator, the faster the speed. Anything lower than a 1/60 is difficult to use, and requires a tripod or some kind of image stabilization. When considering what shutter speeds to use in an image, it would be wise to first look to see if anything in the scene is moving and how you would like to capture that movement. You’ll have the option to freeze the shot or to create a blur. To freeze a movement, you’ll want a faster shutter speed. To create a blurry effect, you’ll want a slower shutter speed. 

i.e.) 1/3000 is much faster than 1/30

1/30 of a second looks about natural for running water.

1/500 of a second freezes everything.

For sports use the fastest speed you can for most things unless you want deliberate blur.

Several full seconds will make waves look like a big, foggy blur.


 (got that from here.)

Anything else you think is important to know about shutter speed?